Open Revelation and Evolution

Many people wrongly envision evolution as a linear process, moving “forward” toward some perfect state. This is true of those who both accept and reject the evidence, and is the basis for arguments such as, “If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes.” We did not evolve from apes; we are apes. The other forms of ape are descended from a common ancestor, and some of them are more closely related to another, now extinct, relative, just as we shared common heritage with Neanderthals. The existing forms of ape are not less evolved than we are, they are exactly as evolved as we are in that they are still reproducing offspring. Evolution is just the process that comes from some creatures having offspring while others do not, and those that do pass on traits that presumably aided them in their ability to do so.

Ideas and philosophies are much the same way. A habit or idea can be good or bad in different situations. If it proves useful in a situation, it survives to be passed on. It not, it is pushed aside and forgotten. Ideas are not always improving. Different parts of the world today require different survival skills, and which skills can change with climate, political upset, or other disaster. Ideas do not evolve in a linear way, always “getting better”. Old ideas have value, have something to teach us, even when they are no longer the best ideas available to us. Personally, I like to believe that as we mature as a species and uncover more cosmic truth through scientific observation and testing, that we will be more open-minded and willing to allow ideas to exist and mingle in our various cultures.

We do not “believe in” science or ancient wisdom, in that we do not take them on faith; we trust the process of trial and error and a communal sharing of results to determine what works, for each of us and all of us together, and we do that thing until, for some reason, something else works better. Our reliance on an open revelation does not mean that we are inherently better, wiser, or more intellectual than other traditions. It means that we embrace the evolution of ideas, which can backtrack at times to embrace an old source in a new way or move into new territory as fresh information is revealed. It means that we recognize that our old ideas can be flawed, but that the new ones may not always prove to be better, and so we continue to test new ideas and methods continuously, if not as individuals, then by as a community by supporting those who brave failure by exploring new ways. This is part of what strengthens a covenantal community and how  we embrace ongoing discovery about the universe and the place of humanity in it.

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